Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 227 "Don't Waffle"

"Don't waffle. Best graduation advice I ever got." A local radio station just aired an hour program on graduation advice. Was what got good or bad advice? Advice you followed or wished you had followed? The one I liked best was the line, "Make a choice. Don't waffle""

I like to think I follow this advice. But as soon as I say that I know that I do that only some of the time. I like to think that I choose and then go with it. But that is one of those little truisms or sayings that can get you in trouble. it can work and then again. It can sure get you moving but it can get you moving in the wrong direction. Maybe the emphasis should be on the "don't waffle" part. I know that was our method when we choose to retire. We made the decision and there was no waffling; not then and not now.

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

Words have a way of sometimes getting us into trouble; take the word waffling. Now that word has a negative connotation. No question about it. However, it might indicate a pause in the mind to consider or think of alternatives. In that case it might be a very good thing. When I was in first or second grade they taught phonics in school as a way to learn how to read and spell. Then I remember Mrs. Schmedicha telling us the rules to memorize concerning i before e and a myriad of other exceptions. At the wise age of 6 or 7 I remember thinking that if there are all of these exceptions why should I learn the rules. I refused. I made a choice and I stayed with it. And since that day Trouble has followed me all the days of my life. Spelling has never been my strong suite.

Dr. Ball, my freshman psychology teacher in college asked us how we would know as a teacher if learning had taken place. After all we were going to be teachers and it seems like we would need to know if our students were learning what it is we were trying to teach. Our conclusion was that learning indicates change. That the student has changed his or her thinking, perception, understanding or motor skills. "You never want to be afraid of changing your mind", he said. "It is a sign that learning has taken place."

How does that stand up under the admonition to make a choice and stick with it? Life has a way of passing on these little lessons that make all rules seem absurd at one time or another.

Waffling is a word that is often used in connection with politicians. And it is not used in a favoring fashion. It has a cutting effect.  I have a hard time with this. I know that President Obama is accused of this 'weakness' all the time. Perhaps his decisive action in implementing the final act for Osama Bin Laden will negate this criticism for a short time. I always think that waffling or trying to decide a difficult issue calls for considering all sides of an argument. Some see this in a negative light. Others might call it the essence of democratic politics. 

The art of compromise is a requirement for a democratic government to function. When compromise ends democracy dies. Politicians are accused of call having no spine, having no sense of right and wrong, or just going which ever way the wind blows. I still think that the ultimate political act in a democracy is to consider choices carefully. I know that this doesn't sync with making a choice and sticking to it.

"Never be afraid to change your mind" my old professor said. "It is a sign learning has taken place".  I like that bit of advice. It seem like the longer I live the more I have learned that there is lots of room for me to make bad decisions. There are so many factors to consider whenever a decision is to be make. Indeed, I do make the choice and run with it, but I always do so it with knowledge that this might not be the best thing. I could perhaps do better and someone else might be very correct in choosing the other road.

Civil rights issues really brought this adage to acceptance. I have known so many people who have changed their minds in regards to sexual preference, drug use and sex roles. My mother became a liberated person the last twenty years of her life. She was so much more tolerant of behavior that was anathema to her in earlier years. She changed her mind. She learned.

I have always thought that is what college does for us for many of ous. It is where we learn that we don't have all the answers, and in most cases, we don't even know the right questions. It is where many of us are launched on a lifetime of learning. Meaning a life time of changing our mind. A life time of making choices with the knowledge that our choice might be different tomorrow.

Retirement gives us time to step back and casually stroll across the reasons for our thinking. We can reevaluate our closely held beliefs and practices. We can change. My old professor would be happy. He always held to the belief that learning can take place all the days of our lives.

This is Retirement Talk.



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